RANCHO SANTA FE — At the San Diego Polo Club, everyone had a chance to meet the four-legged heroes who were nominated for a Service Dog award. Art for Barks, a nonprofit in Rancho Santa Fe, championed its inaugural contest, “The Hero Service Dog Award.”
During the course of the afternoon, Art for Barks had wonderful activities including a Service Dog and Fashion Week San Diego Fashion Show and an Animal Fine Art Show.
Also there was local artist, Heather Roddy, painting a live polo picture of the match. All proceeds went toward the Art for Barks raffle.
The “Hero Service Dog Award” recipient was Solar, a three-year-old Labradoodle, who is both an Autism and Mobility Service Dog who helps his handler, Sadie. Solar was trained by Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs (TLCAD).
Lynn Moon, founder of Art for Barks, witnessed so much positive feedback from polo goers.
“People were deeply moved and impressed with the skills of the adorable Service Dogs. The Service Dogs were exceptionally attentive to their client and trainer; and, the loving eyes and calm demeanor of Service Dogs is something that really impacts people,” Moon said.
Proud of all the nominees, Moon said she was amazed how Solar was trained to specialize in both autism and cerebral palsy. “TLCAD should be complimented for their quality of training. Solar has such a wonderful, nurturing manner that everyone wants to hug him and take him home,” she said.
The other two Service Dog finalists, Dory and Autumn, were from Paws’itive Teams.
Karen Shultz of TLCAD was on hand to receive the award. Shultz serves as board president, executive director and trainer.
Shultz had Solar when he was 10-weeks-old and trained him.
“I was very excited to win this award and to have Solar recognized for his important work.”
Shultz describes the bond between Sadie and Solar as incredibly strong. Solar plays an important role in her life every day; and, Sadie also relies on Solar when she experiences sensory overloaded in public.
Shultz added that Sadie has learned to automatically reach for Solar.
“By touching his head and talking to him, this allows her to endure venues she was previously unable to be part of — these little accomplishments are huge in this family’s everyday life.”
Shultz went on to say that Sadie loves Solar, giving him the moniker, “fluffy puppy.”
With Solar by her side, they do homework together and he helps her stay focused on the task at hand. Solar’s presence also helps Sadie sleep through the night.
“If Sadie needs help in the night, she says, ‘Solar Help,’ and he runs into her parent’s room to let them know,” Shultz said.
Solar has given Sadie the motivation to work harder to walk on her own, she said, and in doing so, Sadie has become stronger and has transferred from using her wheelchair to a walker.
And now, Sadie can hold onto Solar’s mobility harness for balance.
“Sadie’s independence has increased tremendously in the past six months,” Shultz said.
While there, many people asked Shultz how they could go about getting a Service Dog. She explained one needs to have a disability and the Service Dog would do three trained tasks that an individual could not do on their own.
“Most realized they did not qualify to have a nice service dog beside them wherever they went and have full access to public places; so, this was a great educational opportunity which is a goal for Art for Barks, as well.”
Likewise, Shultz thanked Moon for her passionate work with Art for Barks in how they are promoting the work of Service Dog organizations.
“I felt all the service dog finalists were winners at this event and all worked in different fields of service dog work. It was nice to show those in attendance the different work that these special dogs do and how important their contribution is to their individual owners, their families and their communities,” Shultz said. “These dogs transform lives and are priceless to their owners.”